Gallery

One-day itinerary: the famous Rila monastery and the Stob pyramids

This trip is even shorter than the other ones I have suggested so far, however, it will take you to one of Bulgaria’s emblematic locations – the Rila monastery, and to another one, which, albeit somewhat lesser known, every bit as interesting – the Stob pyramids.

Both locations are close to Sofia, so visiting them is possible within one day, but I would recommend spending te night in the village of Stob, so that you have enough time to enjoy these magical places.

Duration: ca 300km round trip

Accessibility: car recommended, but not absolutely necessary

Leaving from Sofia: if you’re going to go for the one day option, leave no later than 9am

The first sight you are going to enjoy is the Stob pyramids, Стобски пирамиди,- a natural sandstone formation of impressive size. With their specific orange-ish colour and intriguing forms, they are a must-see attraction in the Western part of Bulgaria.

To get there you will mostly drive on one of the country’s newer highways, so the ride shouldn’t be too bumpy. Once you get to the plain village of Stob, look for the brown signs pointing to the way to the pyramids. There is a large parking space right before the beginning of the path leading to the pyramids. The walk will take you about half an hour, at the end of the path stand the pyramids, an orange-brown sea of strange shapes around you.

01
Do you see the ‘hats’ on three of the pyramids – at the lower right side of the picture

Some of the have a ‘hat’ of some sort, left me wondering how it got there and what forces keep it from falling off during the first heavy rain 🙂

The path at the top of the pyramid ‘plateau’ is well equipped with railings and provides a wonderful opportunity to take pictures of the rock formations from different angles. At the broader sections there is even a place to sit down and enjoy the shapes and sizes and maybe even exercise your imagination and try to guess what silhouettes the stones remind you of.

The next stop on your agenda is the noteworthy Rila monastery in the… you guessed it, Rila mountain 🙂 It is the largest Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, and I believe, the most popular and beloved one, as both Bulgarians and tourists fill its yard all year long. It is one of the country’s most important religious and cultural monuments and is a key asset in the tourist branch.

20160127122145_16599

The monastery is very well-preserved, bearing in mind that it was built more than 11 centuries ago. It houses some famous religious artifacts striking both with their shiny gold exterior covered with precious stones, as well as with the craftsmanship required to create such exquisite objects.

The monastery is not only for believers, it is a cultural monument and in my opinion has a very strong Bulgarian atmosphere – a carrier of national pride and sentiment.

When we went last time to see it, we had both visited it before, so what left the strongest impression was not the building itself or the well-kept yard, but the super fat and lazy monastery tomcat that was lying on the ground despite the biting Novermber cold. The tale of the fat tomcat is something of a byword for monastery yards, so we loved seeing that fellow there. I’m just going to leave a few pics below 🙂

So this is one short trip I can suggest in Sofia’s proximity. I’m sure that it will leave you satisfied, albeit a bit brief. If you like to prolong it over a weekend, I suggest spending the night in the village of Stob – Стоб, there’s several guest-houses that will be glad to host you and a very nice church worth the visit.

Should anyone have an idea of how to fill the trip with another sight or location, you are welcome to share in the comments.

Gallery

A weekend visit to some of the world chakras

 

According to some sources the 7 Rila lakes are among the most powerful places on Earth, containing vortexes of energy and cosmic influences, in short – they are among the world chakras. While I’m not that much of a believer in this kind of teachings, I am a fan of beautiful nature and decided to pay tribute to these amazing highland water bodies.

Duration: two days
Accessibility: car and public transport

Distance from starting point Sofia: round trip ca 170km

Day one: arriving at Sapareva banya

Sapareva banya  – Сапарева баня, is a small town in Southwestern Bulgaria, famous for the hottest geyser in Europe springing at an unbelievable 103 degrees Celsius! The geyser springs periodically and during windy days it is highly advisable to steer clear of the water sprinkles, as they might burn your skin.

100_4919.JPG
Doesn’t look like much, but it is very very hot

I suggest Sapareva banya as a starting point of your hike to the lakes, as it offers many opportunities for an overnight stay and an added bonus is the spa landscape you can enjoy after having experienced some of that cosmic energy around the lakes. So what we did was arrive on Friday evening, spend the night and head to the 7 Rila lakes first thing in the morning.

Day two: Hiking the trail of the 7 Rila lakes

The 7 Rila lakes are of glacial origin and are situated in the Northwestern part of the Bulgarian Rila mountain. They attract thousands of visitors every year and their fame is largely due to the teachings of Petar Deunov, who said they were energy centers and performed rituals with his sect there every year. The tradition continues and in the summer the Deunov disciples can be seen performing their mystical Panevritmia dance drawing energy from the sun.

The lakes have become a very popular destination also due to a lift recently built, which saves you quite a hike up to the hut, which is the actual starting point of the trail. Prior to that it was a serious challenge to do the hike.

So, prepare to battle swarms of people walking the trail. The worst problem is that all these humans pollute the subtle eco balance and some of the lakes have started slowly turning into swamps. This affects especially the ones that are a common camping zone (mostly for the Deunov disciples).

Anyhow, the trail is long and not easy, but totally worth it. The lakes are astonishing and the views – breathtaking.

I would say the hike will take all day, especially if you like to stop and enjoy each and every lake individually. Don’t rush through the trail, let yourself some time to sit and savor the moment, maybe bask in the mysterious energy of the place ruined only by the hordes of tourists around you. Try to ignore them! 🙂

After you are done with the trail, head back down to Sapareva banya for some well-deserved rest and a good meal at one of the local restaurants. Tomorrow is a day for relaxation!

Day three: Spa at Sapareva banya

As Sapareva banya is full of mineral water springs, it has naturally grown to be one of Bulgaria’s most popular spa destinations. In the summer, I suggest visiting one of the swimming pools downtown. Prepare for many people if it’s the weekend, though.

If you like, you can, of course, also add the spa experience to the swimming pool soaking. The spa I visited there is actually part of the swimming pool complex you see on the pictures below, so you can combine the two. The spa was quite nice and since I visited it during the winter, I had the added pleasure of enjoying the hot outside swimming pool with snow lying around.

So there you have it – two full days of mountain energy and mineral water relaxation, this is a trip I highly recommend. If you decide, you can also incorporate a visit to the largest Bulgarian monastery – St. Ivan Rilski which has become one of the country’s trademarks.

rila-1170x658

The monastery is not too far from Sapareva banya and is absolutely worth a visit.

Enjoy!